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Help Identify Source of "Maxit" on Arcadia 2001 "Brain Quiz" Cartridge


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In round 6 of the Arcadia high score club, we're playing a cartridge called "Brain Quiz." I'm looking for the original source or name of the game "Maxit" on the Emerson Arcadia 2001 "Brain Quiz" cartridge. My guess is that this game was a common game on 1970s computer platforms. Can you help me to identify where this 1982 game may have originally appeared?

I couldn't find any videos of anyone playing this "Maxit," so I made a video showing how the game is played and posted it to YouTube. The video was made off-the-cuff, but I think I explain the game's rules okay.

The Emerson Arcadia 2001 has a cartridge called "Brain Quiz." It contains three games: "Mindbreaker," "Maxit" and "Hangman." "Maxit" is a fun one or two player game that is played for high score. Each player picks a number from a grid of 10x10 numbers. One player can move only horizontally and the other player can only move vertically. The black numbers are positive and the red numbers are negative. The game appears easy, but two players find that they must plan moves several moves ahead so that the other player doesn't get to pick the high numbers.

If anyone has any ideas of the origin of "Maxit," then please let me know.


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I've wondered about this as well. It's depicted as one of the games on the side of the system box, along with the others. Unlike all the other games the name is not self-explanatory, which perhaps indicates it was a game type at least vaguely familiar to potential buyers back in the day? Brain Quiz isn't the commonest game, either. Only 5 or 6 others were tougher to find when I went for a full set.

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On the Arcadia Yahoo forum, James Jacobs, said:


"The page at [old-games.com ...] implies [Maxit] was already in existence as a traditional board game and was subsequently computerized." The 1982 Maxit game for DOS, which seems to have created and released by IBM (can that be right?), can be found here:




The above download page has some interesting information. For instance, the DOS version of Maxit uses an 8x8 board (not a 10x10 board, as on the Arcadia). It also says that "MaxIt is a nicely coded DOS version of a fun two-player board game of the same name."


I looked up Maxit as a board game and found a few non-board game versions of the game:


Maxit by Moose Software for Windows CE:




I found a version from September 2017 called Maxit-- but I'm not even sure which platform it's for:




Here is a windows 3.1 version released by Eastern Software Solutions (Eugene S. Schulze) in 1995:




Here is a Commodore 64 version of Maxit:




Here is an Atari 8-bit computer version of Maxit from the Portland Atari Club released in 1982. This says it's a port of the Commodore PET version of the game:



Here is an actual board game (non-computerized) version of Maxit, called Max-it, released in 1991 by Numero Games Company:



There must a boardgame version of this game that pre-dates 1991, but I can't find it.



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A type-in version of Maxit by Harry J. Saal was published in 1984. It was in Commodore 64 - Fun and Games Vol. 2, edited by Rex Jefferies and Glen Fisher. I played the game under emulation today. It looks like this:



The book's cover looks like this:


It appears that this may have first appeared on the Commodore PET in Cursor #25 (1981/04). However, if this is a magazine, then I can't find it. Maybe it was a tape or disk magazine?


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I wrote a backstory for Brain Quiz. It's probably far more than I needed to write, but it's always fun to noodle around creating something new.


Brain Quiz For Emerson Arcadia 2001 - Background Story
By Adam Trionfo
December 17, 2017

Everything changed when the artificial intelligent "players" were allowed to participate in the Brain Quiz Games, the worldwide competition that draws some of the smartest people together to compete in three simple, yet elegant, games: Mindbreaker, Maxit and Hangman. Of course, there were millions of players around the world who still played Chess and Go. Those two games would always have their devotees whose players didn't participate in the Brain Games. It was no surprise that they actively looked down upon the "easy" games that were played by "simpletons." Where was the challenge in these three games, they wondered.

The truth of the matter is that it isn't the three games that are played by the players, but the opponents who play them. No longer are the games only human versus human. Now it is human versus... machine. First the computers had come, then the robots and now the Intelligent Mobiles compete in the Brain Games. At first, they did not so much compete, but dominate the Games. When they played, there were no mistakes, no misjudgments, no problems: they played perfectly.

Human players began to fall away from the Games when the competition was gone. It wasn't just that there was no point of playing when there was no chance to win. How can one play a game against an unthinking automation made up of circuits, be they man-made materials or based upon nature's own biology (but changed and mutated to follow Man's design)? It was when these "Engines of the Brain Games" (as they came to be called) pulled down ratings, viewers and then money had began to be lost, that the Brain Games rules of competition had to be changed.

The Intelligent Mobiles, which competed for the first time last year, could lose. It wasn't that these machines were less "intelligent" (a word choice always misapplied to the Engines), but rather that they played like a human player. They no longer played perfect games by looking ahead and playing-out every possible move and choice of a game's selections. No, they played like a person played: imperfectly and with emotion. The simulation of the Mobiles was so convincing that they could be riled-up to make a bad move or even a set of poor choices based on "anger."

Now that the playing field seemed more evenly matched, you decided that this would be your first year to play in the Brain Quiz games. As all children do, you grew up playing these three games, first with your parents and Robo-Nursemaids. You moved on to the street and eventually found yourself participating in not-quite-illegal back alley competitions. As you worked your way up, you found that your fame spread and shady backers moved in, fronting money and rewards for players who jockeyed to win in local area competitions.

Now you're here. Today is the second day of the Games. Yesterday you played against human players and you bested them all. Your games were quick; you easily moved in for the victories: there were no close games. You looked into the eyes of every opponent and sized them up to easily base a strategy on how to best beat them.

Today your first opponent is an Intelligent Mobile. This is a biological model. It was built to look and act human. Before today, you only ever played against "borrowed" tin-can Mobiles, whose "eyes" were steely and frosty; there was nothing readable in them. The bio Mobile across from you is different. Its eyes seem to show emotion and when you shift in your seat, you give something away, some small detail that the Mobile detects. This, you now know, is the weakness you were looking for: these bio units are readable.

You look down at the Maxit board covered with its 100 positive and negative numbers and make your first move. The Mobile follows, seeming to take its time. A few plays pass between you both. You look into the Mobile's eyes and recognize... thinking. You take a positive number from the board. The game continues while the audience cheers, boos and shrieks. The eyes of the world are on you.

This year, you're certain that you'll beat the Machines. You're going to come away from the competition the winner. But in the end, that clear, thinking-look of the Intelligent Mobile across from you makes you understand that humanity has placed itself in mortal danger. One day, the Mobiles are going to look beyond the Games toward... something worth much more to everyone. But, for now, there is nothing to do but play the three master-level Brain Quiz games: Mindbreaker, Maxit and Hangman. It's your move, Player.



(Anyone else up for making a background story? I'd love to read someone else's cool ideas.)



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It appears that this may have first appeared on the Commodore PET in Cursor #25 (1981/04). However, if this is a magazine, then I can't find it. Maybe it was a tape or disk magazine?


Yes, CURSOR was a tape magazine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CURSOR


It seems to have been a rather important source for PET games and amusements.


The PET game from 1981 1979 was made by Harry Saal, most likely the same Harry J. Saal who made the updated version in the book you wrote about. The IBM PC version though is by P. Leabo.


Actually it was reviewed in Kilobaud Magazine PET Gazette already in 1979, so the copyright date of 1981 must be an improved/fixed version.



https://archive.org/details/bestofpetgazette00petg (page 55)


Another link for you which mentions a few later, adult oriented games based on the same concept:





I don't know how feasible it would be to make such adult games on the Arcadia 2001, in case anyone would like to try. Probably the hot chicks would look like something out of Simpsons.


It might be a long shot, but this Harry J. Saal lives in Palo Alto, CA just like the Harry Saal who made the PET game did in 1979.





Feel free to give him a blast from the past!

Edited by carlsson
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Yes, CURSOR was a tape magazine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CURSOR [...] Feel free to give him a blast from the past!


Wow, you really dug into the Maxit topic! Those nude uncovered Maxit droids seem to be taken from covers of the comic/magazine Heavy Metal. Or, at least the art looks similar to it. Upon seeing the Amiga cover, I remember this game. I never played it, but I saw the box someplace, although I doubt it was advertised in Amiga magazines.



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All the references to MaxIt made me think of the men's magazine Maxim, but it didn't launch until 1995 so the Amiga games can't be using pics from that one.


I thought about the possibility the original game was homemade on pen and paper, but even in that case it would be listed somewhere on BoardGame Geek. Perhaps Harry Saal actually invented it in 1979 and somehow the game got recognized enough to be implemented on both IBM PC and the Arcadia 2001. At least IBM, I understand were looking for games suitable for grown-ups, not so much space shooting action but more puzzles, brain games for the PC and PCjr. That is also why they acquired a license to release M.U.L.E. which fit well into their catalog.

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  • 2 years later...

Ok. I found the source of this game. But first, let me tell how.


I knew this game as "Take-Out" on MSX, in 1987 (there is a version with same name for C64). Until last week I didn't know there is game called "Maxit". 


I'm a Game Developer and I was thinking in implementing a version of the game for Android/iOS, and started the search for new versions of the game, "Take-out", and didn't find nothing. Only some people talking it was based on a physical board game.

So, after a lot of search, I gave up looking for "Take-Out" and started search by the rules. There are millions of board games, so I didn't found this game by the rules in English. So I started to look for the rules in Portuguese (I'm Brazilian), and looking for wooden game boards. By a happy coincidence, this game is being played in many schools in Brazil (and studied in education courses), and here it's called "Matix".


So I started looking for "Matix" and after an hour I found the original game, of 1968, called "Mattix": Original Game


In the middle of the searchs, I found a modern version called Sums, for Windows 


You can find more versions in the Mobygames Maxit variants


The First publication I found about the computer version (called Maxit, I imagine the author inverted the 'x' and 't', and removed a 't', to avoid problems) is of 1978 February, so this version was probably created in 1977: First computer version



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So there is our Harry Saal again, though dated back to 1977/78 instead of 1979 and updated in 1981. I see that the board game was designed by what seems like two Israeli, and the company Orda only had limited distribution in the UK where the first review is located from. The BGG marketplace also has a Spanish version from 1975, which suggests this game eventually spread across the world, all the way to California where Saal lived so he could implement it on his PET and as you noted, changed the spelling to not get noticed. Are the rules exactly the same too, or just very similar?

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1 hour ago, carlsson said:

Are the rules exactly the same too, or just very similar?

The rules of the game are exactly the same. The board and numbers used in this first version (1977/78) are different, board 10x10 and 1 digit numbers. The version that Harry Saal made for C64 (1980/81) use the same board size 8x8, and same numbers of the original, except for the number "-10", he changed to "-9" to use only 2 digits.


13 minutes ago, krslam said:

Excellent detective work Rogerup.

I forgot to mention how I reached to "Maxit" name. I found a german site talking about a version of "Mattix" for Amiga, and in that site, they talked the game was similar to "Blue Angel", then I found in Mobygames that "Blue Angel" was similiar to the "Maxit".


Take-Out  ->  Matix  ->  Mattix  ->  Blue Angel  ->  Maxit 


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  • 2 months later...

Dear colleagues, Harry Saal replied and here is his original message. I must admit that he replied relatively quick, but I was so busy finalizing two books that I simply had no chance to do anything else. So, have fun:


"I'm happy to update you and your colleagues on the history of MAXIT! and
the many clones it engendered. Feel free to post the following notes, in
full and unedited.
Here's the backstory about a computer game which I developed over 40
years ago. I was introduced to the Orda (Israel) board game MATTIX in
about 1974; from materials posted on the web, it appears that MATTIX was
introduced by Orda in 1968. I was developing multi-player gaming
software for the original 4K Commodore PET which I acquired early in
1977, thanks to the help of Sam Bernstein, VP of Marketing at Commodore.
As one of several 2 players games being developed for a future online
gaming system ("GameNet", which never came to pass), I wrote a very
close implementation of the Orda game and called it MAXIT! (note the
exclamation mark at the end of the official name). It was written
entirely in Commodore BASIC and with full instructions just fit into the
4K RAM memory of the PET.  As an active member of our local PUG ("PET
User Group"), I contributed a cassette of the game (V3.0) to the club in
1978. I also sold cassettes of the game in the US , Germany and the UK
for $3.95 via club newsletters and distributors. Probably less than 50
copies were ever sold while many many more were passed around. (Much
more successful was the "BASIC Programmer's Toolkit", a ROM-based
collection of programming utilities, such as RENUMBER, that I introduced
in 1979).
I was not involved in ANY of the many versions and variants of MAXIT!
that you have traced but I'm proud to have sired so many children and
grandchildren. Thanks for the excellent detective work! Looking at the
actual code of those version would be like genetically tracing the
lineage more closely than just the general game play and user interface.
I am somewhat saddened that there does not appear to be any cognizance
of what I consider by far to be the best part of my original MAXIT!
program. MATTIX was a two person board game, but MAXIT! allowed one user
to play against the computer, by entering "1" as the number of players.
In the minimal 4K memory, I was able to craft a really powerful computer
opponent, which used a 2 or 3 half-ply look-ahead to select its move
quite rapidly. Of course, the starting board being random and the human
player having varied skills, the PET didn't always win, but it usually
whupped the human with some very sharp moves, especially in the end game
(when the search space was small.) I'd love to know if any of that code
ended up in the successor implementations which would be a very clear
marker of the evolution of my code. P.S. The name MAXIT! was coined to
embody the program's skill in maximizing its score when looking ahead.
            Dr. Harry J. Saal
      Chairman, Retrotope, Inc."
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So we can probably assume that Mr. Saal was the first to convert this Israeli board game to computer format. I wonder about the Apple II game that Tempest mentioned, if it simply would've been someone converting his PET game to the A2 as the BASIC is fairly similar. In the case of the Emerson Arcadia, it must be a new implementation since that system has nothing obvious in common with the various 6502 based systems with Microsoft BASIC.

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What I find most interesting is that many of the whitebeards of the early industry are still with us - and they are willing to talk. I have interviewed quite a few of them already and can only recommend to browse and search and make contacts as long as they are with us. As to where the Arcadia Maxit comes from... I assume that they packed some early tech demos together to have yet another cart to sell. And board games like checkers or games like hangman were easy to identify and to connect with for non-gamers. We must not forget that the medium was new for most and familiar games helped to lower the entry barrier of understanding and acceptance.


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